Leeton Shire use Cockatoos for water monitoring

Leeton Shire Council has installed its first large flock of Taggle Cockatoo telemetry devices to monitor water pressure, lift station levels, river height and rainfall.

Leeton Shire Council has installed its first large flock of Taggle Cockatoo telemetry devices to monitor water pressure, lift station levels, river height and rainfall.

Leeton Shire is in southwest New South Wales. It is 584km from Sydney, 470km from Melbourne and 371km from Canberra. Leeton is the birthplace of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and was purposely built as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme.

Understanding Leeton means understanding its climate and its relationship to the Murrumbidgee River. Leeton has a semi-arid climate with hot, dry summers and cool winters. The maximum average summer temperature is 32°C, and the maximum average winter temperature is 15°C. The average annual rainfall is 457mm.

The Murrumbidgee River provides vital irrigation water and feeds the Ramsar-listed Fivebough and Tuckerbil Wetlands. These wetlands play an essential part in the local ecology. Up to 174 bird species have been recorded in the Wetlands during the warmer months. Many of these bird species are migratory birds from the Northern Hemisphere.

Leeton Shire Council supplier of water and wastewater

The council is the water utility and authority for about 4500 people and the sewage provider. In the words of Gerard Simms, the IT Manager of Leeton Shire Council, said, “Leeton is the ideal Goldilocks size for trialling new technology”.

“We are small enough to deploy new technology through our network fairly easily. At the same time, we are not big enough to have too much bureaucracy to slow things down,” he said.

With water central to Leeton Shire, it takes its water monitoring seriously. With that in mind, Leeton went to market three years ago for smart water meters. After rolling out the smart meters from Taggle, conversations took place around other radio network uses. Taggle’s IoT solutions provided opportunities to look at different use cases to understand the water and wastewater networks through a more comprehensive array of sensors. This is where the Cockatoo telemetry device came into play.

The Cockatoo

The Cockatoo is Taggle’s recently released versatile telemetry device. It can accommodate a range of sensors, protocols, and radio technologies. The Cockatoo can address unique or specific requirements and challenges.

Leeton Shire Council wanted to monitor water pressure in its reticulation network and issue early warning alerts in response to rising levels in lift stations. It also pairs rain gauges with ultrasonic levels sensors to provide an additional early warning for rising water levels during heavy rainfall.

“One of the biggest benefits of the Cockatoo is that they are battery-powered. The lack of electrical work means that we can install them anywhere and place them somewhere that is unlikely to be vandalised,” said Simms.

The Cockatoo collects the data, which is then processed and delivered via Aqualus Vision, Taggle’s IoT visualisation platform. This platform enables remote visualisation of assets and resources with early warning alerts to inform decision-making and to quickly address any issues.

Expertise of Leeton Shire Council

Simms has been with Leeton Shire Council for four years, having spent several years in the IT industry. He has a clear understanding of how the system works.

“There are 42 pump stations around the network. In real terms, we only need ten for a council of our size. It’s a tricky situation to be in. They are of different qualities, and we have had to spend a lot of time and money understanding how they work. We’ve spent a lot of money rolling out SCADA across the network.”

Over time, developers had put pump stations at the end of every street instead of building main trunk lines back to existing pump stations. Some of these pump stations are overgrown septic tanks with a submersible pump – they may only serve one or two houses.

SCADA can be expensive

“It’s hard to justify the SCADA investment for that situation, so we needed to find something that would give us full visibility of the system at a lower cost. We wanted to reduce the risk of having unknowns in the system,” said Simms. “One of the biggest problems with automation is that unless you have 100 per cent coverage, you do not know what you do not know. If staff are not looking at every pump station, we will not know if there is a problem until someone calls to complain.”

The most important thing for Leeton Shire Council and Simms was integrating multiple data sets into one platform. For many, this is an enormous channel. Taggle worked closely with Leeton Shire Council to provide all the water and sewage operators with one platform to find all their data.

“Having one source of truth meant that any alarms come from one place. We wanted to make the system as simple as possible for the end users,” Simms said. “That worked really well.”

What has Leeton Shire Council learned?

The most important thing for any such investment is what a council can learn from the sensors. In the case of Leeton Shire Council, they have learned some trend information from different pump stations around the network. It included trends that they had never known about before.

“We discovered that one pump station hooked up to a sports ground would overflow every second Sunday. It was overflowing at the same time every second Sunday during winter, at about 5:30 in the afternoon. We figured that it’s the showers and toilets all being used at once after the game,” said Simms. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time, this pump station has no issues. However, that huge influx of wastewater comes in on a Sunday afternoon, and the pump station is backed up, naturally overflowing. By the time someone gets out to it on a Monday, all that water is gone.”

Simms added that the pump station is probably an overgrown septic tank that needs to be upgraded at some point. However, the more important issue is how to invest capital appropriately. Finding this trend and having this data will help Leeton make that decision.

Learnings key for Leeton Shire Council

None of the other sensors have yet captured anything else too concerning, but having them in place means Leeton is ready for future events. Simms has set the warning levels at specific points to give Leeton Shire Council staff enough time to act early on issues.

The Cockatoo sensors have given Leeton Shire Council the knowledge to manage its water and understand its flows. The more it learns, the better it will understand its future capital investments.

For more information, get in touch with Taggle at www.taggle.com.au

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